Easter Mourning

John 20:1-18 (along with Luke, Mark and Matthew) – Easter – for March 31, 2013

“Early on the first day of the week . . .” (John 20:1)

Looking east as the earth spins, revealing dawn . . .
Looking east as the earth spins, revealing dawn . . .

What Gospel will you read when Easter’s dawn teases the new day?

Will you choose Easter celebration or Easter mourning?

When I served in churches, I’d search for Easter’s official time even before Lent began. After all, sunrise in Fresno, California will be “later” than Fargo, North Dakota.

I liked discovering the official civil twilight. Civil twilight is a naval term for the first (or the last) glimpse of a defined horizon:  Night is over, but it’s not yet dawn. Whenever Easter appears on the calendar, and wherever I lived, knowing when civil twilight began helped me choose the time for Sunrise Service.

On March 31, 2013 in Fresno, California civil twilight will be 6:20 AM. Sunrise arrives twenty-six minutes later at 6:46 AM. Ta-da! Now you can plan your celebration (at least if you live near me)! Quick, post the time on your church’s web page. Of course, you may choose to ignore this data and start at another time because of your church’s we’ve-always-done-it-this-way tradition or your personal pastoral preference to maximize beauty rest. Or you’re a layperson and want to complain about how early or late Sunrise Service is because you have the facts about exactly when dawn will knock on Easter’s door! You choose.

But let’s return to civil twilight to understand another choice. The Earth spins at over a thousand miles per hour and you—whether Fresno, Fargo or far, far away is your zip code—stare toward the east. Brace yourself. Traveling at the speed of the Earth’s spin is not for the faint of heart! In the dark you wait, expectant for the first glimpse of light.

Will you delight in the new day or will you have regrets? What awaits?

And what will you read from scripture that truthfully prepares you for this particular year’s Easter? Hurry, the light’s coming. Choose! Continue reading →

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Glimpsing Danaus Plexippus*

Luke 24:36b-48 – The 3th Sunday of Easter – for April 22, 2012

“You are witnesses of these things…” (Luke 24:48)

I swerved, just missed a butterfly smacking me.

Whew!

(Image by clement.cc via Flickr)

However—since I’m a 200-pound guy, and I rode my bicycle at 20mph, and a goofy-looking helmet protected my noggin—should it be: I avoided hitting a butterfly?

After all, who would’ve suffered more from actual impact? Chunky Larry or Madame Butterfly?

I’d been dashing along the bike trail, admiring the scenery, alert to other bicyclists and the occasional walker, mostly minding my own business. Then, whoosh! On the extreme left side of my peripheral vision, a winged creature spiraled into view. Duck…swerve…whoa! All creatures great and small survived the near miss.

It was my second butterfly encounter within the week. A few days before I lounged in a lawn chair after finishing yard work. Just passing the time. Just enjoying a spring afternoon. And then, floating by the orange tree, I spotted a monarch butterfly. For a leisurely moment, the Danaus plexippus did what butterflies do so wondrously well: it flitted about, a splash of brash gold and black against the tree’s green backdrop. Unlike an anxious, frenetic hummingbird or the proverbial buzzing (and so business-like) bee, the butterfly bided its time.

I watched, amazed at how my mind wandered until the insect disappeared into the neighbor’s yard.

Didn’t I see more springtime butterflies when I was a kid? Was that because I was a curious kid rather than a busy adult? Or, with the continuing onslaught of asphalt and concrete, with pesticides and global warming, have humans made the world more perilous for monarchs and their fellow winged Lepidopteras? I fear it’s more the latter than the former.

I then thought of Dan, a friend and pastor in the California town of Pacific Grove, the self-proclaimed “butterfly capital of the world.” There, monarchs arrive from a two thousand mile journey, creating an annual explosion of fragile glory. Viewing my temporary backyard companion prompted a brief prayer for Dan. I enjoyed the winged reminder of my buddy. Continue reading →

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Easter Sole

During Bible study classes I’ve taught, I may query the students about the three things Jesus asked his followers to go and do.

It’s a darn good Easter question.

Two answers usually come easily from the students: baptism and communion. (Or dunking and dining, to be flippant.)

While I won’t share lengthy insights about the profound theology and tradition of those rituals, few Christians doubt their importance. Whether a believer is liberal or conservative, traditional or radical, nearly all agree on communion’s reminder of holy nourishment and baptism’s call to a lifetime of discipleship. And so much more . . .

What about the third request?

Most don’t remember Jesus requested his followers to wash another’s feet. Maybe you’ve seen the Pope kneel to symbolically wash a few soles during Holy Week. Perhaps in your church you’ve done it on Maundy Thursday. Regardless of how it’s explained or remembered, ritually washed feet have lost out in “popularity” compared to dunking and dining.

I understand. We’re not a 24/7 sandal-wearing culture anymore. We’re well-heeled and high-heeled, Mary-Janed and wing-tipped, a people of many soles. A whole lot of folks, especially in contemporary American society, squirm over exposed tootsies. (Ohh, I’m ticklish. Arrgh, my toes are gnarly.) However, all flippancy aside, I’m grateful Jesus asked us to remember the humble act of serving another. Down and dirty, sandal to sandal, face to face, sole to sole . . . and of course, soul to soul.

We say on Easter, rightly so, Happy Easter! However, on this wondrous day, on this life and death and life again celebration, I pray to honor the three things Jesus asked us—me—to go forth and do. Yes, those Biblical requests have become formal, fancy liturgies. But all of us will break bread with another who hopes to be welcomed; all of us, wet or dry, seek community; and all of us are weary from the journey and need rest and care.

On one day, let us joyfully shout, Happy Easter! In every day, let us become a living response to Jesus’ simple, soulful requests . . .

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